While many of the other Lakers took a slower approach to the preseason in terms of playing games and how they treated those games, Anthony Davis was far more proactive throughout training camp and the slate of exhibition contests. After spending the summer getting healthy and strengthening his body with an offseason of normal length after the abbreviated one the whole team had last year, Davis came into camp with a one-track mind.
It should not be entirely surprising, then, that the result was Davis pouring in 33 points with 11 rebounds on 15-of-26 shooting from the field in Tuesday’s loss to the Warriors. On a night when so many other Lakers still looked a step slow and out of sync, Davis looked in mid-season form as he and LeBron James combined for 67 of the team’s 114 points and nearly carried the purple and gold to victory.
Following his impressive Opening Night performance, Davis spoke about his game while acknowledging the lone blip in his performance on the night in free throw shooting.
“I just want to be dominant every time I touch the floor,” Davis said. “Layups, whatever, they’re going to go in, go out, whatever. Free throws, I definitely take pride in free throws. Because I get there a lot. I can’t go 2-7. I take pride in that. The team allows me to shoot technicals, defensive three (second violations), whatever. I take pride in hitting free throws.
“But I think having those five preseason games definitely helped me get into a rhythm tonight. I feel very comfortable shooting the ball and things like that, and now it’s just trying to get Russ going. LB (LeBron) was LB tonight. Other guys, AB (Avery Bradley) came in and played extremely well for us, and then we got other guys going and will get other guys back as well. For me personally, I think it was a good Game 1, and we’ll get back at it Friday.”
The free throw shooting continues to be an odd trend for Davis. After being a career 80.2% free throw shooter during the first eight seasons of his career, including shooting a career-best 84.6% in his first year in Los Angeles, Davis dipped to 73.8% last season. During the preseason, Davis shot just 63.9% at the line in 36 attempts.
But, as mentioned, that served as one of the very few negatives on a night when Davis looked back to his All-NBA form. It was particularly noteworthy considering who he was lined up against in Draymond Green. One of the best post defenders in the league, Green has given Davis problems in the past, including in the play-in game last season at Staples Center.
On Tuesday, though, Green was no match for Davis. Per NBA’s match-up data, Green was by far the primary defender on Davis throughout the night and did very little to slow him down. With Green defending him, Davis shot a very nice 6-9 from the field, including 1-3 shooting from beyond the arc, for 15 of his points 33 points.
After such a frustrating and disappointing 2020-21 campaign, Tuesday was a reminder of just how special Davis is when he’s fully healthy. After using the preseason to ensure his body was prepared and he was ready to hit the ground running, Davis was dominant once again. Now the challenge will be doing it on a nightly basis. Davis says he wants to do it, and him delivering on that vow could be crucial to the Lakers’ success in the early-goings this season.